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Google Inc. must face a lawsuit claiming its data collection using Wi-Fi networks for its Street View program, which allows users see photographs of roadsides, violates wiretapping laws, a judge said.
U.S. District Judge James Ware in San Francisco denied Google’s bid to dismiss claims that the data collection, which included e-mails, user names, passwords and other private data, violated federal wiretap laws. Ware granted Google’s request to dismiss claims based on state statutes.
“Although the networks themselves were unencrypted, the networks were configured to prevent the general public from gaining access to the data packets without the assistance of sophisticated technology,” Ware wrote. “Merely pleading that a network is unencrypted does not render that network readily accessible to the general public” and make interception of communications from that network immune from liability, the judge said.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based company apologized and maintains it never used the data. It also argues it did nothing illegal because the Wi-Fi data was publicly available like radio transmissions.
U.S. District Court Judge James Ware rejected that argument late Wednesday, saying Internet data transmitted wirelessly have the same privacy protections as cell phone conversations.